Reconciliation with God
Now while Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and laying himself face down before the house of God, a very large group from Israel, of men, women, and children, gathered to him, for the people wept bitterly. Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us now make a covenant with our God to send away all the [foreign] wives and their children, in accordance with the advice of my lord and of those who tremble [in reverent obedience] at the commandment of our God; and let it be done in accordance with the Law. Stand up, for it is your duty, and we will be with you. Be brave and act.”
Then Ezra stood and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel, take an oath that they would act in accordance with this proposal; so they took the oath. Then Ezra got up from before the house of God and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib [and spent the night there]. He did not eat bread nor drink water, for he was mourning over the [former] exiles’ faithlessness. They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the [former] exiles, that they were to assemble at Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, by order of the counsel of the leaders and the elders, all his possessions and property would be forfeited and he himself would be excluded from the assembly of the exiles.
So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the twentieth [day] of the ninth month, and all the people sat in the open square in front of the house of God, trembling because of [the seriousness of] this matter and because of the heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful [to God] and have married foreign (pagan) women, adding to the guilt of Israel. So now, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will. [a]Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from [your] foreign wives.” Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, “It is our responsibility to do just as you have said. But there are many people and it is the season of heavy rain; so we are unable to stand outside. Nor can the task be done in a day or two, for we have transgressed greatly in this matter. Let our leaders stand for and represent the entire assembly; let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the burning anger of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah [b]opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.
Then the [former] exiles did so. Ezra the priest and men who were heads of fathers’ households were selected, according to their fathers’ households, each of them by name; and they sat down on the first day of the tenth month to investigate the matter. And by the first day of the first month they finished investigating all the men married to foreign wives.
List of Offenders
Now among the sons of the priests who had married foreign women were found: of the sons of Jeshua [the high priest] the son of Jozadak, and his brothers—Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. They vowed to send away their [pagan] wives, and being guilty, they each offered a ram of the flock for their offense. Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah; and of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah; and of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah, that is, Kelita, Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Of the singers: Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
Of Israel, of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah (Hashabiah), and Benaiah; and of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah; and of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza; and of the sons also of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai; and of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth; and of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh; and of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah; of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei; of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu, Bani, Binnui, Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. All these had married foreign women, and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
- Ezra 10:11 The severity of Ezra’s policy is justified considering Israel’s tragic experiences resulting from marriages to pagan women. The consequent idolatry, first of King Solomon, and then of the whole nation, was fatal. God’s wrath had been so great that He not only took the kingship from Solomon, but eventually turned the Israelites over to their enemies and left the promised land desolate, while the people mourned their fate as captives in a pagan country. Ezra, to whom the keeping of God’s law was of constant concern, had been born in captivity among exiles who grieved for the country, peace and prosperity which God had once given them. Leading the exiles to give up their foreign wives and children was the only way to avoid God’s wrath.
- Ezra 10:15 No reason is given for this opposition, though it would hardly seem strange if some of the people were concerned about the severity of Ezra’s instructions. On the other hand, the ancient rabbis understood the Hebrew text to mean, “stood up in regard to this,” as in volunteering to begin the task in support of Ezra. So instead of opposing the reform, this interpretation has the four men showing great zeal for it, and in v 16 the former exiles then follow their lead.